In the summer of 2018, TT introduced our first-ever Voting and Democracy Grants. We began accepting applications in May, and from the first round we were amazed by the incredible work educators are doing to encourage students to use their voices and their votes.
In this roundup, we’ve included summaries of some of our favorite Voting and Democracy Grants projects. If you’re inspired by what you read, apply for your own grant here. We’ve extended our deadline to September 15, so you still have time to share your brilliant idea for encouraging students in your classroom, school or district to get involved in their democracy.
For a More Perfect Union—VOTE!
Gaston, North Carolina
At a high school in the small town of Gaston, North Carolina, TT grants are supporting a month-long, student-led, nonpartisan voter registration drive. This project offers several ways for student volunteers to get involved. Some will register voters at community events, like their school’s football games and Fall Festival. Others will canvass door-to-door to encourage Gaston residents to register and vote. Student leaders will collaborate on a Voter Registration Guide, a nonpartisan information sheet explaining how and where to register to vote. Art students will handle the posters; AP Spanish students will translate the guide into Spanish. In all, this school-level project is expected to involve more than 300 students in a town of 1,000, teaching even those who are too young to vote the ways that they can participate in their democracy today—and preparing them for tomorrow.
Los Angeles, California
This school-level project builds on civics education already in place at one Los Angeles, California, high school. Current efforts—pre-registration for eligible future voters, encouragement of student activism and a student-created voter guide—will continue. With the help of TT, our grantee plans to build the project in several ways. Registration efforts will expand to include families and alumni of the school, as well as students. Students themselves will create a weekly podcast to reflect on their experiences, and they’ll build and grow the project’s website and blog. Around 150 students will participate in Democracy Lab, a project that our grantee believes can “truly change the way [our] neighborhood and school envision its place in our democracy.”
Baltimore Youth Vote
Of all the jurisdictions in the state of Maryland, Baltimore has the lowest voter turnout. The Baltimore Youth Vote project encourages students to change that. The grantee behind this classroom-level project supports students as they work to register as many new voters as possible. They’ll hold voting drives on their campus, visit other schools to encourage young voters to register and turn out, and create a voter guide. Their guide will include candidates’ answers to a standard set of questions along with a calendar of voter registration drives, deadlines and locations. Students will publish their guide in print and online. More than 700 students will be impacted by the project this year, which sets as its goal the registration of 300 new voters.
Voter Registration Community Service Program
At a high school in Ashland, Montana, educators and students are working together to ensure that registration is easy and accessible for their families and neighbors—particularly those who live in rural or tribal communities. National Honor Society students at our grantee’s school will plan voter registration events at local community gatherings, traveling over an hour to set up registration tables at basketball games, fairs and powwows. They’ll also make and post signs in public spaces encouraging members of the Northern Cheyenne and Crow tribes, as well as rural ranchers, to register and vote. At their events, students will help those living in rural areas or those with limited transportation apply online for absentee ballots. Through this school-level grant, more than 70 students from across three counties will expand the vote in a state where voter registration must be completed by mail or in person, and in a region where the nearest county seat is over an hour away.
Student-Led Research: Youth Voting
At our grantee’s school in Richmond, California, civics is stepping out of the history classroom. There, 12th grade students will partner with mentors from a local college to practice research skills. This project supports seniors in high school as they conduct original quantitative and qualitative research. Our grantee explains: “Their research will document young people’s exposure to family beliefs, attitudes and behavior around voting; students’ access and experience with partisan and nonpartisan voting education; and [their] knowledge, attitudes, and current or projected behavior around voting.” After synthesizing and reporting their data, students will act on what they’ve learned by pre-registering or registering to vote. This classroom-level project will touch more than 350 students, who will participate in the studies either as researchers or subjects.
Carson and Chávez/Civics and STEM
Granada Hills, California
In this classroom-level project, civics comes to the ninth-grade STEM classroom through the study of Rachel Carson and César Chávez. After learning about the work of these activists, students will investigate current bills in California’s State Senate and Assembly that connect with environmental justice. They’ll study the bills and then weigh in, creating public service announcements highlighting and explaining the legislation. They’ll exercise their civic power, drafting letters to their local representatives encouraging action. And they’ll encourage their schoolmates as well: the project will culminate with voter registration drives that will reach around 1,000 students and encourage older, eligible students at the high school to register and vote.
This project begins by ensuring that all 200 seniors at the grantee’s Columbus, Ohio, high school have the opportunity to register to vote, but the end goal is to register students across the district. The three-part project starts with teachers collaborating and sharing lessons online. These lessons, designed for 12th grade ELA classes and aligned with their standards, will provide a space for eligible students to register to vote. Additionally, student leaders will host engagement activities in classrooms and in the community to encourage voter participation and increase turnout. Finally, the grantee will partner with school administrators to promote a voter registration competition among the district’s 20 underrepresented neighborhoods. As our grantee writes, “We want to spread the message that anyone can teach anyone to register!”
Your Voice: Your Vote
Los Angeles, California
This school-level project uses history to contextualize the importance of voting for 2,000 Los Angeles high school students. Students will study the loss of civil liberties in the Japanese internment camps. They’ll examine this history by visiting key sites and meeting with survivors. They’ll consider the effects of the loss of civil liberties—even in a democracy like the United States. Finally, they’ll organize, promote and execute a voter pre-registration and registration campaign for 16- through 18-year-olds at their high school. Collaborating with the League of Women Voters and working with guidance from experienced community members, students will design, plan and implement their campaign, learning not only the necessity and logistics of exercising the right to vote but also building the connections they’ll need to become lifelong participants in their democracy.
Connecting to Our Past and Creating Our Present
In Leland, Mississippi, 100 high school seniors will learn about the fight for voting rights—and the champions who led that fight in their own community. This school-level project coordinates student learning across English and social studies courses. In their ELA classes, students will read and discuss Fannie Lou Hamer’s speeches, along with those of other civil rights activists who fought to ensure that no one was denied their right to vote. In social studies classes, students will learn about the voting process and about the history of voting rights in the United States. Their studies will be capped by a field trip. The high school seniors will visit the Washington County Courthouse, delivering their own voter-registration forms in person. Then they’ll visit Fannie Lou Hamer’s memorial. “This project will contextualize why voting is essential,” our grantee explains. “It is my hope to inform students about the rich legacy of civil rights in our area and also inform students about their ability to be change-makers in their own community.”